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Trip Report Glovers 2 month India adventure has begun!

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Mr Glover and I have finally embarked on our first trip to India. Will try to update trip report every few days. We two have taken to spending Jan and Feb some place warmer than DC now that we're retired. We planned the trip and made most reservations ourselves, though
Arranged some drivers and got some train tickets through Castle and King.

We flew dc to london and london to Mumbai on Virgin Atlantic. And yes, as someone here at fodors predicted, seats were hard, narrow and cramped in economy. But I caught up on 4 or 5 movies, slept not a wink, and managed to survive. We have a complicated and ambitious itinerary that involves drives, trains, and domestic flights. We'll be in Kerala, Aurangabad, Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Agra, Varanasi, Delhi, and 3 National parks.

Weather here in Mumbai is perfect, 80s by day, 60s by night. Warm and sunny. Staying in an interesting little "boutique" hotel, the Ascot, near the Taj and India Gate. Full of Arab businessmen, some with families. Enjoyed our visit to Elephanta Island yesterday to see the ancient Hindi caves. A young resident guide attched himself to us. He turned out to be quite good, found us some birds, took great photos, and provided good info. We did a lot of walking and climbing with him and by day's end were exhausted!

More as it develops. . . .

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    Have a great trip, make sure you try some of the street food in Mumbai, but make sure you use a few cautions etc, it's a sin in my opinion not to try the street food in India, especially in Mumbai.

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    We leave on Feb 10! I'm just starting to pull clothes, but plan to pack light as always. I know we will be bringing back more than we are taking. We'll start in Delhi and return from Mumbai on March 6.

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    Great start.
    How is the weather these days? I think the exchange rate is really good these days. Hope you will enjoy the trip and also find great souvenirs.
    Waiting to hear more details.

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    We were so whipped after our all day trip to Elephanta that it was all we could do to drag ourselves the two doors down to the rooftop restaurant we' discovered the night before.   Two doors down from our Ascot Hotel is the Hotel Godwin.   On its top floor is the Cloud 9 cafe:  just a few basic tables inside and very basic bar.   But outside is large roof patio with wrought iron tables and chairs.  Hence a good place for enjoying warm Mumbai eves.   A few large Tiger Beers and a bit of Indian food will set you back all of $20 to $30.   Food's OK, too.   Unfortunately our second night was really too breezy cool outside so we moved inside where the decor is more early ymca.

    On day 3 in Mumbai we ate our included breakfast - toast, masala omelette, juice, and bad coffee- in the nice little breakfast room of the hotel.   Then we walked way north in the Fort area with spontaneous stops along the way.   
    Sat for a few minutes and listened to a concert of vocalists backed up by musical instruments.   Were drawn around a corner later when we noticed a throng of people waiting/watching something.   Was the small courtyard of a very decrepit apt Bldg, with people peering out also from all its open windows. 
    A man came over to us and told us that this was the beginning of a funeral for a mid aged man from the Bldg.  On the ground in th middle of the crowd a few men prepared a hand made stretcher, covered it with white sheet and weighted the sheet with rocks.   Soon we could see through the open windows of the apt that several other men were carrying a wrapped body down steps through the Bldg.   Our new friend told us that after everyone offered their respects the body would be carried? Delivered?  About 10 minutes away for cremation.   Thinking all of that would take some time, we moved on.    

    Walked as far north as Crawford Market, a huge veg, meat, fish open market.   Every imaginable animal/bird caged and for sale.   Soon we were approached by two men who flashed some credentials and pointed to a sign on the wall of market rules, one of which said "foreign visitors shall be escorted by guide.".   The taller elegant man explained that no money was requested or due, that the service /rule was to protect visitors from "bad people".  He then became our new best friend - perhaps particularly to ensure that we visited his friend's spice booth.   In any case we were shown and smelled many wonderful spices and did buy a few types of curry.   

    Next stop was the Prince of Wales museum.   A beautiful building inside and out.   We fortified ourselves with some ginger tea and cookies.   I cruised the museum shop.   Spent most of the time viewing the museums collection of stone sculptures, which we thought outstanding.   Later I was attracted to some colorful Madhubani hand painting.   Stacks of contemporary ones (also hand painted) were displayed for sale.   I went into a shopper's coma and lost a half hour deciding on a single one to buy.   Meanwhile Mr Glover cruised the armor.  He reported back that there were some spectacular jeweled daggers there.   Walked back to the hotel. 

    Had dinner later at the lovely restaurant Indigo on the front terrace.   Shared grill prawn appetizer, I had leg of lamb, and Mr G also had something he liked though I've already forgotten what.   Had desserts too and a couple drinks.  Bill came to about $100, our most expensive yet.   Partly because wine is so $&@xxing expensive here.  

    Checked out TV after dinner to see what Indian TV looks like.  That was not to be at the Hotel Ascot, as we discovered all channels were Arabic.  No Bollywood for us.   

    Next day we flew south on JetAir to Kochin in Kerala.  Super new nice plane, 
    Beautiful flight attendants.   2 1/2 hour flight.   Found pre paid taxi booth and gave employee there the address of our hotel in Fort Kochi.   She looked at it and then at me and said:   "Blablabada?".  I looked blankly back at her and said with question inflection. "Blablabada?". And shrugged like a no nothing.   She wrote something on the ticket, charged me about 1000 inr and handed me my ticket.   Outside a driver took it from me and directed us to a car.   He looked at address I gave him and then at ticket and said "Blablbada? ". Then. No Blablabada.   "fort kochi"  and we then said yes, yes fort kochi.    After several more blablas were exchanged we came to realize that the ticket agent understood our address to be in some place Blablada sounding.   The driver immediately recognized it as Fort Kochi.   Then I had to go back in and get it corrected etc.   And we were off.   30 km yet one and a half hours later! We were in Fort Kochi at our lovely little hotel Tissa's Inn, a simple place appointed with beautiful Indian art antiques.   Owner also owns big antique shop in town.   Had dinner that eve at the restaurant of the Old  Harbour Hotel.   We'd met a guy the night before at Indigo who recommended it.   Sat outside on the verandah near swimming pool.   Live music played softly.   Lovely atmosphere, though good thing we'd slathered on the mosquito repellent.  (FYI - as the mosquito magnet, I said yes to Malarone for 7 weeks, MrG the tough guy is foregoing it.    ).   Food here was equally as good as Indigo and bill half as much.   We had fish filets done two different ways,
    Grilled veg appetizer and delicious carrot pumpkin soup.   Nice but slow service.   But a pleasant spot to hang around for sure.    Hotel reception was shocked that we wanted to walk.   Possibly because many guests never returned.   Street signs that exist are confusing, various maps different and not to scale,  names changes etc.  And then there's the chaotic auto rickshaw, motorcycle, car, pedestrian traffic.   Broken sidewalks suddenly end, etc.   A great place to test one's response time and alertness.   Watch where you step, look sideways, and still try to take in the scene.   

    Slept well, had another masala omelette breakfast with great juice, nice fruit and terrible coffee.   Set off on foot again after breakfast, map in hand, with the goal of seeing Ft Kochi.   Immediately outside hotel auto rickshaw driver set upon us.   We did our best to resist him - we want to walk- bla bla.   And we did for a few blocks until Mr G, good with maps, declared map worthless.  
    Who should appear out of nowhere but Achoo the previously rejected driver. 
    We acknowledged the possible misery of walking in circles in heat and humidity.    And we were his.   Probably a good decision as we were able to cover more ground more comfortably.   And it was a fun ride.   Visited the only Jain temple visitors can access, Jew town and Old synagogue, outside laundry (imagine using a 10 lb iron in this heat all day.).   Laundry area is full of big old metal tubs.   Washed clothes are then hung to dry on many racks outside.   Some laid flat in yard.   Especially interesting to see as we'd just had the hotel send out some laundry this am.   Scanning the scene didn't yield anything familiar though. . .  .    But we bet they were there.   Also visited the 400 year old ginger Factory.   Returned to hotel for sandwich and rest.   
    Will go with our new best friend Achoo to a festival in town for a couple hours this eve.   Tomorrow we've hired a boat and nature guide for half day backwaters trip.

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    He then became our new best friend - perhaps particularly to ensure that we visited his friend's spice booth. In any case we were shown and smelled many wonderful spices and did buy a few types of curry. >>

    glover, I've not been to India - yet - but this sounds so much like our experiences in Sri Lanka, as do your attempts to walk and then giving in to getting a rickshaw.

    All so so familiar, and yet such fun.

    Keep it coming.

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    Are the Chinese nets still in Kochi? They were a big draw.

    Wine in most of Asia is very expensive if drinkable, and frequently expensive and not drinkable, lol. I don't drink beer at home, but I do in Asia. Switch to Kingfisher, it goes better with curry anyway.

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    I am loving this. You seem to be going in reverse order of our itinerary. I've been tracking weather in some of the destinations and noting temps in Delhi and Jaipur are running 48-72F with "smoke". I assume that refers to air pollution levels?

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    Enjoying your report, especially since we have not been to the southern areas of India. I am particularly interested to hear how different the south is from the north and if you think they are significantly different t to warrant a second trip to india.

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    Our evening at the festival that our rickshaw driver delivered us to turned out to be quite fun.   He drove us out to a small village full of walled narrow lanes.
    We went by the local temple that was decorated and "waiting".   All we knew at that point, because of Achoo's limited English, was that the festival would include an elephant.   Achoo continued to ask around the village and we finally ended up at a small intersection to wait for the elephant's imminent arrival.  Around the village people had set out offerings of various things, including bananas for the elephant.    Then at last there was a procession of men in white, followed by the elephant with mahout and 3 or 4 young men on top.   
    Beautiful head piece of the elephant.  A BIG elephant.   We watched and took pics till they turned a corner.   Then returned to the temple to wait for the procession's arrival there.  As the only tourists present, we were a big hit with the community kids of course.    "what is your name?". "what is your age?".  "where from"?   "please take our picture".  We were asked again and again.   Consequently I got some nice pics of some really cute kids.   A woman who introduced herself as Dr.  Something unpronounceable came over to talk to us and filled us in on the festival.   This was the 3rd day of a four day festival celebrating the sun' s movement from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere, the end of winter and beginning of Spring, and luck for a good harvest in  future.   She said that the elephant is used and honored in the festival because it was the elephant that long ago taught man how to live
    In the forest.    We stayed until the procession arrived at the temple and then returned to town, where we had another good dinner at Old Harbor.

    Next day we were up early for our Kerala backwaters experience.   I had read lots about the overnight houseboats etc and decided to just opt for a day trip.  We asked our hotel to find us a trip that would be just going out on the water and looking at birds.   Thus Dax Gueizelar of GLH India travel
    www. Glhindiatravel.com arrived with driver at 8:30.   We drove in a nice car about 40 minutes to a nearby village chatting easily with Dax all the way - a nice easy going fellow, articulate in English and most interested in and knowledgeable about Indian culture and society.   We recommend him especially for that.   He explained some interesting communal customs 
    When we arrived at the village.   Then we got in a long old wooden canoe with a local boatman and cruised on the water for a couple hours, very slowly.   We stopped a few times to observe life on the water, all very interesting.   Beautiful palm trees everywhere.   Saw water birds we know well: egrets herons etc but also a few spectacularly colorful kingfishers.   A few others new to us as well.   Dax isn 't a bird guide at all, but he did know where to take us to see lots of birds.   And, again, was quite articulate about village life and customs.   All and all a good day out!   Arrived back at hotel at 1: 30, again whipped from the heat/humidity.   Had a little lunch at Kachi Cafe, sharing a table with 3 contemporaries from Liverpool.  They were ending a two month trip around India and weren't at all ready to leave.    After lunch we walked down to the beach area and fish market where we'd not yet been.   Lots of people out because of Muslim holiday.   Spent rest of hot afternoon resting, Internet, etc.  

    Walked back down to beach area that eve and had dinner at Seagull Restaurant, of course getting somewhat lost on the way.   Our hotel mgt had given us names of what he said were "the two" restaurants with alcohol licenses.   We know there to be at least 3, since they didn't mention the Old Harbor Hotel.    Seagull has a small porch jutting put over the sea, so you can sit on the water.   Of course you do look right across at the huge cranes of the active port.   Nevertheless fun to watch ships etc.   Food so so,  but cheap and beers too.   Most restaurants, including the one at our inn, do not serve alcohol.   Next up:   Birding at the nearby Hornbill Camp.

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    Our evening at the festival that our rickshaw driver delivered us to turned out to be quite fun.   He drove us out to a small village full of walled narrow lanes.
    We went by the local temple that was decorated and "waiting".   All we knew at that point, because of Achoo's limited English, was that the festival would include an elephant.   Achoo continued to ask around the village and we finally ended up at a small intersection to wait for the elephant's imminent arrival.  Around the village people had set out offerings of various things, including bananas for the elephant.    Then at last there was a procession of men in white, followed by the elephant with mahout and 3 or 4 young men on top.   
    Beautiful head piece of the elephant.  A BIG elephant.   We watched and took pics till they turned a corner.   Then returned to the temple to wait for the procession's arrival there.  As the only tourists present, we were a big hit with the community kids of course.    "what is your name?". "what is your age?".  "where from"?   "please take our picture".  We were asked again and again.   Consequently I got some nice pics of some really cute kids.   A woman who introduced herself as Dr.  Something unpronounceable came over to talk to us and filled us in on the festival.   This was the 3rd day of a four day festival celebrating the sun' s movement from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere, the end of winter and beginning of Spring, and luck for a good harvest in  future.   She said that the elephant is used and honored in the festival because it was the elephant that long ago taught man how to live
    In the forest.    We stayed until the procession arrived at the temple and then returned to town, where we had another good dinner at Old Harbor.

    Next day we were up early for our Kerala backwaters experience.   I had read lots about the overnight houseboats etc and decided to just opt for a day trip.  We asked our hotel to find us a trip that would be just going out on the water and looking at birds.   Thus Dax Gueizelar of GLH India travel
    www. Glhindiatravel.com arrived with driver at 8:30.   We drove in a nice car about 40 minutes to a nearby village chatting easily with Dax all the way - a nice easy going fellow, articulate in English and most interested in and knowledgeable about Indian culture and society.   We recommend him especially for that.   He explained some interesting communal customs 
    When we arrived at the village.   Then we got in a long old wooden canoe with a local boatman and cruised on the water for a couple hours, very slowly.   We stopped a few times to observe life on the water, all very interesting.   Beautiful palm trees everywhere.   Saw water birds we know well: egrets herons etc but also a few spectacularly colorful kingfishers.   A few others new to us as well.   Dax isn 't a bird guide at all, but he did know where to take us to see lots of birds.   And, again, was quite articulate about village life and customs.   All and all a good day out!   Arrived back at hotel at 1: 30, again whipped from the heat/humidity.   Had a little lunch at Kachi Cafe, sharing a table with 3 contemporaries from Liverpool.  They were ending a two month trip around India and weren't at all ready to leave.    After lunch we walked down to the beach area and fish market where we'd not yet been.   Lots of people out because of Muslim holiday.   Spent rest of hot afternoon resting, Internet, etc.  

    Walked back down to beach area that eve and had dinner at Seagull Restaurant, of course getting somewhat lost on the way.   Our hotel mgt had given us names of what he said were "the two" restaurants with alcohol licenses.   We know there to be at least 3, since they didn't mention the Old Harbor Hotel.    Seagull has a small porch jutting put over the sea, so you can sit on the water.   Of course you do look right across at the huge cranes of the active port.   Nevertheless fun to watch ships etc.   Food so so,  but cheap and beers too.   Most restaurants, including the one at our inn, do not serve alcohol.   Next up:   Birding at the nearby Hornbill Camp.

    Next day we're picked up by our Castle and King driver Badu for the 60km or so drive to the Hornbill Camp near the town of Thattekadd.   Drove takes about 2 hours, through some busy villages and up a bit in elevation.   We ask the driver to stop along the wY so that we can buy a few Kingfisher beers for our stay.  Hornbill also doesn't serve alcohol, but has no objection to it's consumption if you bring it.    Finding the liquor store becomes a mission on itself.   The state of Kerala has only state stores and only a few of those.
    Badu stops. Half dozen times along the road to ask for location, which lasts seems to be further down the road.   Finally we arrive at a quite nondescript place. (well except for the sign that says alcohol may be injurious to your health).  A single employee behind a window grate sells us 6 tall Kingfishers for about $1 us each.   Through the grate we can see a single shelf of some hard liquor and wine bottles.    Had to have a picture of that unusual store.

    Driver has directions to Hornbill Camp of some sort but still needs to stop several times to ask locals as we get closer.   We're now in a beautiful area of rubber and pineapple plantations.   In fact the camp is on land owned by the owner of the neighboring plantation.   

    We arrive at a beautiful location.   20 very nice large tents with private baths and porches looking out on the Periyar River.   A big open gazebo that serves as dining and lounge area.    We're greeted by two young guys from the UK who are managing the camp for 6 months.   They won a sort of naturalist competition and will be writing a magazine article about the camp and their experience.  They provide a nice orientation.   For two nights we and a lovely young couple from London are the only guests.   After a bit of rest and unpacking, Mr Glover and I go out walking round the camp, spotting many beautiful new birds Long the way.   Weather is very hot and very humid.  
    We're served both lunch and dinner cafeteria style in the gazebo.   Food is good, a revolving collection of simple chicken, veg, fish curries, nann, rice, and fruit.  Spicy and delicious.   We have a great time chatting with the UK couple, who are also traveling round India for 2 months.

    Next day we all go out to nearby sanctuary.  We 2 have hired, for a little extra, the camp's resident naturalist, since he's the bird expert.   We have a great morning and late afternoon with Abhilish, an excellent guide.  He finds us 60 species of birds, including some fabulous ones like a Ceylon frogmouth, Malabar parakeet,  gorgeous kingfishers, an Indian golden oriole ( just to name a few favorites).    Of course it's quite hot and muggy.   but never mind.   After another nice dinner and chat with the Brits and some further porch sitting we crash.   I sleep badly enough to hear animal snuffling sound in middle of night outside tent.   Sounded like pigs to me and staff validated that was a possibility.  

    Day 2 was a bit of a chill day.   We 2 walked the property a bit, rested and read a bit, and in late afternoon did the included plantation walk with one of the managers.   Very interesting to see a rubber tree tapped and get an explanation of the process which turns it into sheets.   Also learned about pineapple culture and viewed mahogany and teak trees as well as nutmeg,
    Vanilla, cloves. . .  Just as we completed the tour the skies turned gray and wind whipped up.  Made it back to camp just in time for a nice one hour hard rain storm (their first rain in two months).  Great to sit on our porch and watch the rain on the river.   A few more guests arrived on this day.

    Next day we went canoeing at 7:30 on the river leaving from the camp.
    The river is wide and dammed further down, so very little current.  Water was like glass with beautiful palm tree reflected everywhere.   A guide on a kayak accompanied us and pointed out a few things of interest.   He made sure we paddled by a spot where he and some clients had seen an elephant come down to the ri er a few weeks earlier.   A first for him there and thrilling even for him.   No elephant for us though.   But we saw 5 new birds and a macaque monkey - and only one other human/boat- a solo fisherman.   There are mostly no other buildings along that part of the river as a cross the river from the camp is a sanctuary now closed to visitors.

    Returned to camp for nice Indian breakfast and got ready to leave for our drive to Munnar.   Our stay at Hornbill was wonderful.  Highly recommended for nature lovers.

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    Annhig, yes thanks for providing the link to Hornbill. It WAS lovely. We stayed 3 nightdurong the s, which was just about right to do what's available, bird watching on and around and off the property, kayaking, canoeing, plantation tour, and biking. Guests tend to do activities in early am and late afternoon before 6 sunset because of heat/humidity.

    Djunbug: re the houseboat overnight in Kochi. Guess we decided to do day trip because we were most interested in what we could see during the day on the water, birds, nature, etc. And also thought that would allow us to go in a smaller boat in less traveled places. But obviously many people like the houseboats. We saw some and they looked nice enough on the outside.

    We're now at Bracknell Forest about 10 km outside Munnar. To be continued. ..

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    oh, this is WONDERFUL!!!!! I miss India. I love "seeing" it though your eyes.Thanks for taking time to write all this , in such detail, when you could be resting, reading, sleeping!!!!

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    Our Castle and King driver arrived right on time to drive us from Hornbill camp to Munnar.  The drive took about 2 1/2 hours to a cooler 6000 ft altitude.   Munnar is one of many "hill stations" in India, where travelers go to seek cooler temps.    It had somehow escaped my notice that our Hotel, Bracknell Forest, was located about 10 kms from Munnar town.   At first this seemed that it would be a detriment (isolation).  But later it seemed like an advantage (isolation).   The area all around Munnar is tea and cardamom plantations.   Very beautiful.   A one lane road winds through the hills.   Nothing special about the town itself.   

    On arrival we settled in to our nice room, on the first floor of a 2 story building with a verandah overlooking trees and valley.   Ordered lunch and ate it in the small hotel restaurant.   An interesting system here.  You call on the phone to give them your order.  Then let them know if you'd like it delivered to room or in restaurant.   All Indian menu with no item more than $4.   Food is quite good too.   Beer will suddenly appear if it is requested, but it's definitely not on the menu.  Licenses are expensive is what we hear.   The restaurant boss is Jose, though here pronounced more like jyos.   He's a hoverer and leaps to remove your plate the instant you put down your fork.  

    Took a long walk after our late lunch,  still farther up in the hills, admiring the crops and views, and spotting a few birds.   

    Some jolly dinner conversation with fellow guests that eve.   crash early so we can be ready to meet auto rickshaw driver at 6:30am.   A crazy curvy downhill drive, partly in dark but fortunately with no other traffic, takes us into town where we meet yet another bird guide/naturalist- Shrwan, recommended as the only good one in Munnar by our guide Abhilish at Hornbill.   Shrwan is an energetic little guy with decent English and a good eye.   He buys us some welcome hot tea at a street side joint teeming with locals.   We get in another rickshaw with him and go to an open area just outside town.  Spend some time there not seeing much and then took another tuk tuk to the Entrance for the nearby National Park.   Natl park on. Sunday was a scene itself with so many families out.   Pay admission and go by park bus (no cars from this point) several kms .   From the bus drop off, all walk up a single paved road to top of hill.   So the sole point of the park seems to be the walk, with views of tea plantations, and chance to see an endangered mountain goat called a nilgiri tahr.  They're actually rather easy to see- along the road and on nearby hills.   See a few birds.   From the park entrance we then take a regular local bus back to Munnar town.   A real Teeth rattler.  Again we are an enormous hit with middle schoolers on the bus.  We have a lot of fun with them.  One calls their group "the future of India".   Later I also get some photos of the female"future of India" - who had been sitting up further in the bus and were only slightly less exuberant than their Male counterparts.  

    We have another cup of tea with our guide in town, pay him, and say goodby.
    Hit the ATM in town, buy a little tea, chocolate and nuts in nearby store and jump in another tuk tuk up up to our hotel.    Later another easy hotel dinner.

    Next day we sleep a little later and take more walks around the hills.   There are some beautiful rather palatial homes up there, as well as small hotels and home stays.  Tall trees and beautiful vegetation.     

    Next day we're picked up and driven to the Kochin airport.   The first two thirds of the drive, though partly beautiful, was nonstop hairpin curves.   Not for the queasy for sure.    Kochin's small airport is actually rather lovely,  calm and nicely designed.   Our Jet Air flight back to Mumbai was on time and smooth.   Confusion did ensue once we got there however.    Based on one of Mr. G's replies to someone who approached him while I moved toward the pre-paid taxi line, we were hustled over to a waiting van from the Bawa Hotel, where we did have a reservation for the night, or so we thought.    Turned out that van was waiting for some other large group.   The driver and I both spoke to the hotel by phone, though I never understood a word.   Another car came for us in a few minutes and delivered us a few blocks down the street, in the midst of a huge traffic jam.    Once we arrived at the hotel it developed that they'd never heard of us, despite my prepaid confirmed res through the online Tingo service.   They scrambled to come up with something for us and said they also had no reservation for our return night a few days later.    We visited our wretched room and had an ok dinner downstairs in hotel restaurant.   Slept briefly until our early wake up call for our 6:20 flight to Aurangabad.  

    That Jet flight also left smoothly on time, so that we arrived in Aurangabad
    At 7:15am.   We were met by our driver for the next couple days, Taqui - not from Castle and King- but from a glowly rec from an Indian couple on tripadvisor.    He delivers us to the Lemon Tree Hotel.  Lemon Tree is a nice little mid priced chain in India.  All rooms face a huge and wonderful pool.   We take advantage of the large breakfast buffet, Indian and continental offerings.  Also WONDERFUL coffee at last.  Wait for our room to be ready.   Meanwhile we meet the very charming general manager Mr. Singh.   We are here in Aurangabad to see the Ajanta and Ellora caves, which we've arranged for the following two days.  So our first day is free and we choose to chill around hotel all day.   Have nice dinner of Asian food outside by the pool.   A nice change.   

    Next day Taqui picks us up at 8:30 for the 2 hour drive to Ajanta Caves.
    Taqui is in his 50s or so and an interesting fellow.   Has a phd in history.  Has been a teacher off and on.  Seems to have his hand in a number of ventures locally.   Lots of stories to tell and good history, political, and social info.   The drive is interesting as always.  A lot of cotton grown in this area.  He does not guide, however, at Ajanta.   Official guides at the site are regulated.  You pay 900 inr and get the next one in line.   This turned out to be a waste of money for us.  Our guide Rahul was nice enough, but rushed us through several caves talking wayy too fast with thick accent.   So when he'd finished with us, we went back and started again on our own.   Like most people we'd read about, we spent about 4 hours at Ajanta, 30 rock cut Buddhist caves dating back to 2nd century BC to 400 AC.   The site, the carvings, and the paintings are simply spectacular.   We took way too many pictures.

       Returned with our waiting driver to hotel.   My wish come true, the hotel was setting up for a lavish Indian wedding reception on its large front grounds!   We showered and returned to watch the set up/festivities for awhile.   An elaborate entrance and arch had been created,  a stage with flashing colored lights and seating in front.    Male drink servers in black suits and elaborate tied hot pink turbans.   A buffet line and seating area, one for ladies and another for gents.   Servers in ladies area attired in elaborate red and gold saris.   And then, best of all, a huge outdoor cooking area with open fires, ovens, huge cooking vats.   Cooks mAking breads and stirring large vats of red stews.   We watched and watched for a long time as guests arrived.  We waited and waited for the bride and groom.   A few big raindrops fell ("it never rains at this time of year").   Finally we did see the groom arrive.   And then just as we gave up the watch for the bride,  skies opened up and it poured.   Don't think there was a good plan B for that reception.   went in for dinner, so not sure how that all played out.    Felt sad for the bride!  

    Next day we were up and out again at 8:30 with Taqui.   Today's destination was the Ellora Caves:  Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain caves, a shorter 45 minute drive from Aurangabad.   We thought these caves, particularly the large temple #16, even more fabulous than Ajanta.  Several stories, elaborately carved animals and figures.   Simply stunning in detail and extent.   Hard to imagine we had known nothing of them before.   Spent hours viewing them all.   Then went to nearby silk factory/weaver.   Watched a young man at the loom weave a beautiful peacock design using 6 or so spooled bright colors.     Spent a very long time in the attached shop.   Got the hard sell from two charming but relentless salesmen.  Bought some nice scarves and miniature silk paintings.   Admired some  incredibly beautiful and expensive saris . . .    

    Wrapped up this day with a visit to Aurangabad's  "baby Taj", a beautiful mausoleum, in its own right,  built in the mid 1600s.    It was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb to honor his first wife.   Resembles, on  smaller scale, the Taj Mahal that was built to honor his mother Mumtaz Mahal.

    Today we'll go with Taqui's son to Deogiri Fort near Aurangabad , have lunch/dinner at a restAurant facing Ellora caves, and then go on to airport for return flight to Mumbai.  Next up:  Jaipur. . . 

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    Did you use/need insect repellent while in the South? We are in the process of putting together our stuff to pack. We will be taking Doxycycline for malarial protection, but wondered what your experience has been. It doesn't sound like you've been "attacked" to any degree that has made it difficult to enjoy the outdoors.

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    We also thought the caves were absolutely amazing. Five years ago we had no problems bringing our own guide to Ajanta. Regulations must have changed. I'm very much enjoying revisiting India with you. Thanks.

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    Didn't mean to imply that you couldn't bring your own guide to Ellora/Ajanta. You can. But if you arrive with just a driver and decide want one of the onsite guides, you'll get the next one in queue for the regulated price.

    Re: mosquitoes. As noted earlier, since I'm the mosquito magnet, I'm taking Malarone. Mr. G. Decided against it. Seemed to have noticed more mosquitoes in South than other places we've been so far, like Mumbai. (my brother believes he got dengue from bites on boat ride from Mumbai to Elephanta several years ago. The boat broke down and they spent a few hours on the water being repairs/rescued). Know nozzles were around in the outdoor restaurant of Old Harbor Restaurant. Yet the south is supposedly not a malarial area. Was better about slathering on the repellent the first week or so than have been lately. Will see how it is now that we're in Rajastan. But I'm certainly not being attacked so far. Don't think I've notice more than a bit or two in 2 1/2 weeks.

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    Bharatpur, Rajastan.    "we're not in Kansas anymore. . . ." we said to each other as we alighted from our first Indian train at the railway station in Bharatpur.   This town of about 200,000 is northeast of our last location Jaipur, on the way to Agra, home of Taj Majal.   It's one thing to be besieged by smiling, laughing, curious children practicing their English phrases, but quite another to be blatantly and unsmilingly stared at by individual and groups of adults (mostly men, since that's who's mostly about).   We are obviously in a much more rural area where many fewer tourists are seen.   
    In fact, looking around the outside of the train station at 6pm we're the only not brown faces in view.   

    We're here to spend 4 (!!) nights at a place called "The Birder's Inn" almost next to India'a famous national park Keoladeo Park.   Our pick up from the inn is late, so we get to stand around longer like two sore thumbs, stared at by almost all.  Use our trusty cellphone with Indian sim card to call inn and remind them to pick us up.   By the time they arrive, it's dark, so get to see the town and roads, blessedly briefly, at night.   Everywhere we look are people, including one darkened yard/field area that appears to just be an encampment teeming with people.  

    The Birder's Inn is right along a bigger divided highway leading from the town past the park.   It's in a strip of other considerably more humble hotels.   
    Once beyond the streetside lobby it's a nice two story place, walled from street with nice open courtyards.   We get a warm welcome from management and are shown to our room where, as manager says, we could play football.  It's that cavernous.   Nice bed and new bath.   Somewhat cool in the room as temps here will be down to 50s in eve and up to 75 with day sun.   Hotel  makes a big bonfire in courtyard for guests to sit around in early eve.   In case you hadn't gotten your quota of smoke yet in India.   Dinner is served in central restaurant buffet style.   Hotel seems fairly full, a big group of French speaking birders, another group of Germans, and a few other couples. Interesting variety of good Indian food.   We are working our way through various items, enjoying most, and trying to remember the names.   Service all around the inn is very attentive, friendly.    Sitting in the sunny courtyard of the hotel now.   This afternoon we'll walk a few blocks down to the National Park and walk the park with a park bird guide.   Or maybe ride bikes, no motor traffic in there.

    Jaipur.   Going back a few days.   We flew from Aurangabad to Mumbai.   Our on time Jet Air flight arrived in evening.   Stayed in our same Mumbai airport hotel, where they upgraded us to a much better room to make up for not having our prepaid reservation a week or so earlier.   Next day we took a miserably early 5:45 flight to Jaipur.   For the first time in all our travels, this flight was diverted to another airport.   We circled Jaipur for half an hour, unable to land because of dense cloud cover.  This is a common issue particularly in am at this time of year in northern India.   Fortunately the diversion didn't last too long, we refueled and then made a another more successful run at Jaipur.   

    We were picked up by driver arranged by hotel.   Loved our little hotel here, Umaid Bhawan,  a heritage haveli property, lots of floors, nooks and crannies, balconies, Indian art and fabric everywhere.   Great outside rooftop bar restaurant.   Full of charm.   Considered it a great deal at less than $50 per night.  

    It's in the Banipark area of Jaipur, about 10 minutes drive from the hectic old city.   Ate dinner there both nights.   Hired our airport taxi guy to drive us around the next day and a half.   

    On day 1 we drove through the old city of Jaipur, India's first planned city,
    Laid out in 1727 in 9 squares, after Hindu fashion.   "the pink city" because of its many pink and white old buildings.   A rather civilized place in that it has covered sidewalks in front of all the shops lining the street.   Buildings are quite lovely.   City traffic still the same, intense with cars, cycles, rickshaws, elephants, carts, and walkers.

    It's a glorious blue sky sunny warm day.  Perfect for seeing the enormous and spectacular Amber Palace, built in the 1600, up a narrow winding road from the old city.    Spent a few hours walking all through the palace's many rooms and floors and courtyards.   Full of beautiful open courtyards, living quarters,  all rather well preserved.  Great marble pillars, paintings, ceilings, mosaics.   Also visited the two nearby forts Jaigarh and Nahargarh.   Lots of blackfaced monkeys about.  Also interesting with great clear views out over Jaipur.  Lots of beautiful peacocks onthe grounds along the road back to town.   Drive back thru town in rush hour traffic.  Pass construction for Jaipur's upcoming metro.

    On day 2 in Jaipur we visited the city palace, built in 1700s after the capital moved from Amber.   Also spectacular, with some beautifully carved and painted doorways and many rooms.  Tried to understand the nearby 1700s observatory, full of large structures for measuring the harmony of the heavens.   Mostly sun dial like.  Made for a very nice sculpture garden.

    Our probably too brief stay in Jaipur was followed by our first 2 hour train trip from Jaipur to our current location Bharatpur.   Thankfully we took the advice of other travelers and allowed the train station porters to carry our luggage.  Otherwise it's hard to imagine how we'd have located the track for our train.   It was a long way.   Two turbaned  red coated porters each carried a bag on their head the distance with us trotting along behind.   Our $13 tickets put us in the second class AC car as there was no 1st class on this route.   Somehow we had imagined rows of sit up seats for this 2 hour day time journey - not realizing that our trip was just a piece of a much longer route.   Fortunately not all seats were actually occupied so I didn't have to boost myself up to my upper berth "seat.".   Train had very narrow aisles, with a single upper and lower berth on one side and a double set of upper and lower berths on other side.   Pull curtains would afford some minimal privacy.   
    We'll experience two overnight trains before the trip is over!   

    Next up Keoladeo National Park.

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    Still enjoying your great report! Note on the trains - during the day the benches are intended to be used for seating, so you wouldn't need to climb up, but you might have to negotiate that with the other people in your section. The best place in 2AC is on the side, but I have never figured out how to guarantee those places.

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    Keoladeo National Park.  Each day during our stay at the Birders Inn in Bharatpur we walked the 3 blocks or so to the entrance of the park.  The park extends 29 sq kms, mostly wetlands.  It was developed as a duck shoot reserve in 1899 by an English prince who was town administrator.   An interesting plaque commemorates the shoots of various important visitors 
    Until the last shoot in the 1960s.   I particularly liked these:   "M Jack Denton Scott and other American guests - 152 bagged with 38 guns" in 1960.
    "The Shah of Iran (remember him?) bagged 156 with 45 guns" in 1956.  "The King of Afghanistan bagged 600 With 77 guns in 1958.". But the record seems to have been set many years earlier when "The Viceroy Lord Linlithgow", surely with others in his party?, bagged 4273 with 39 guns.
    Good thing that all came to a halt.   The park was declared a Unesco site in 
    1985.

    Lazy birders that we are we slept in the first day and didn't get to the park till 1:30.  We paid our 400 inr each for foreigner admission.  Then Naturally, with our upscale binocs, we were immediately set upon by the group of park naturalists.   We wanted to engage a good guide anyway though and felt fortunate to get Prakash Chand.   He was a great guide, found us 80 species that long afternoon.  We walked about 10 kms all around the park, really enjoying the warm sunny day.  Also saw two kinds of deer, antelope, jackals, and a 3 meter long python.   The python lives in big holes made by porcupines.  The holes may been abandoned by the porcupines or they may reside there together.   Apparently the pythons don't mess with porcupines.   Our guide said often hyenas are with them as well.   Another guide told us of being attacked by a python twice in his outings.  Luckily we heard that story after we'd chased one down its hole with another guide. . .  I got a porcupine spine as souvenir.

    The next day was fogged in in the am, but the guide we'd scheduled earlier through our hotel showed up anyway at 8 expecting to go.   So we set off.  Fortunately after walking for a few hours, the weather cleared and again was warm.   This guide, Soran Singh, was even better than the previous one - and he had a Svarovski (sp?) scope.   It was a great day with him.  He wore us out with his enthusiasm and focused patience to find birds he wanted to be sure we saw.   Spent the entire day at the park, seeing most of the same birds as the previous day, plus about 14 new ones.    At the end of each day Mr. G and the guide checked off the birds seen.   Lacking the appropriate attention span for that part of the trip, I always wander off and do something else.. . 

    On day 3 we woke up to very foggy weather and a power outage, so we just hung around the hotel until power returned.  Then we walked about a half mile or so into town for ATM.   Pass a bull, a wild boar, and an oxcart, among other things headed down the opposite direction in town.   We get the usual stares and shoutouts from kids.   One teenage boy stops to ask us the usual questions and we notice he's wearing a sweatshirt that says "Assateaque State Park, Maryland.".    Proof positive that, as I've read, the used clothes placed in charity drop boxes are later sold in India.    we make a stab at explaining that the place on his shirt is a favorite of ours.   Doubt he got it.
    Weather finally cleared about 2 so we walked back up to park.  This time we hired one of the bicycle rickshaw drivers to pedal us around as we only had a few hours before dark and closing.   They charge 100 inr an hour.   All old gearless what we used to call "English bikes.".    No motorized vehicles permitted past a certain point in the park.   The rickety old rickshaws add a certain charm to the crumbling park infrastructure.  Lovely tree lined lanes.

    We're glad we put Keoladeo on the itinerary, relaxing and fun. . . 

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    Totally loving your reports. My husband and I decided we would get horrible colds in the two weeks before we leave on our trip. (As if we had a choice, but better now than when faced with a 26-hour travel "day.") Anyway, reading your posts is a highlight of my day! We would also try to explain to that boy in the sweatshirt that we took our kids to Assateague (well, Chincoteague) for years during the 80s and 90s in the summers.

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    Glad you're following along. Yes, get those colds over with. Then maybe you'll have some immunity when you get here, ha ha. I sympathize as I just came down with my SECOND cold since we arrive in India. 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off. Sigh.

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    Hi, another fan and hanging on to every word. We are leaving Feb 4 for India. We will be staying at the Umaid. Do you think the food is good enough to not venture out somewhere else for dinner?
    Was it smog in Jaipur?

    Keep enjoying and delighting the rest of us.

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    Gazing at the Taj in Agra and stalking the tiger in Kanja National Park


    Our arranged driver picked us up next day at Birder's Inn for maybe 60km drive to Agra.   We took his suggestion to visit another spot on the way,  Fatepur Sikri, the 16th century capital of the Moghul empire.   Well worth the visit!  Spent about an hour walking around there.

    Driver then delivered us to Bansi Homestay in Agra.   It's just a small B&B,
    With a half dozen rooms, some common seating areas, a small outside courtyard, and a kitchen.  The host DK Burman is a charming and articulate contemporary of ours (fluent English).   He was a muckety muck in the tourism biz for years and now is a consultant.  We have dinner there two nights.  They serve simple but delicious Thali, a single plate that includes
    rice, dal (lentils), roti (bread), and a few veg or non veg dishes, and yoghurt.  We laid low one entire day in Agra as I was down with the worst kind of cold.   Did help me get alot of reading done.  Finished "The City of Djins," which I'd been working on forever, sped through "The City of Devi," and also "The White Tiger.".  All 3 make great India reading.   

    I rallied enough the next day to get to the Taj and the Agra Fort.  Our little B&B is located on a dead end cul de sac within 20 minute walk to the Taj. And we were determined to walk, though it's always a risky proposition as there generally are no sidewalks at all and traffic is bedlam.   As it turned out the day I sicked in was kind of cloudy and the day we had left for Taj was beautiful warm and sunny.   The crowds did not seem as overwhelming as I'd Feared.  We each paid $1.50 for an audio guide and got what we paid for. Both of our players had issues which made them ultimately more trouble than they were worth.   Of course, as everyone knows, the Taj is just beautiful, even at midday when we there.  (we're way too lazy to try to get there at dawn or dusk, or for a full moon as others do).  We take a zillion pictures. Also spend a few minutes in the small museum on the grounds that contains some Taj related items.   Worth a visit if time available.  Outside we get an auto rickshaw to take us to the Agra Fort.   Glad we didn't miss it.  There's lots to see.   The usual great gates, public courtyards, palace/residence areas, beautiful Moghul design, plus wonderful clear views of the Taj in the distance.

    We take a rickshaw back to hotel neighborhood, but have the driver drop us at the nearby bakery, Cake More, where we have a couple cappuccinos with whipped cream designs on top.   We receive the usual Indian hovering service That we've come to expect.  But the couple male employees are fun to talk to.  (beginning to wonder when we'll meet any Indian WOMEN, male guides, male drivers, male servers in restaurants).   

    At our host's suggestion we pick our way down the street the equivalent of several blocks to a recommended South Indian restaurant for more Thali.  It's early, so, except for another table of a few young Chinese women, we're the only ones in the joint.    Not quite as much hovering here. . .  Walking back to our hotel the coming street is suddenly jammed with a wedding procession,  Complete with groom on white horse and toddler boy in front of him.   Procession is lit by spotlights carried by men in the procession.   Drummers also, and people dancing down street in the center.   A little later when we are leaving our B&B for the train station this same procession jams down our narrow little parked up dead end street for the reception.   Sadly we had packed away cameras. . . .

    Again the trusty railway porters are useful in getting us and our bags to the correct platform and coach for the overnight train to Jabalphur.    This time we're in AC 1st class, and luck out with a 2 person, rather than 4 person Compartment.    First AC has upper and lower bunks, actual locking door, and a clothes closet of sorts.   Not uncomfortable if you like sleeping on a shelf.   We sleep perhaps just a little right before train arrives.   Our arranged Driver has no trouble spotting us, and we're off for the 3 hour or so drive to Kanha Natl Park.    Though a longer drive than we'd hoped, it's really rather pretty and interesting- alot of agriculture and then increasing elevation and forests.   The last half hour or so of the drive is on a newly paved less than one lane road, though frequented by all 7 or 8 or so types of road users, ie Cars, motorbikes, auto rickshaws, bike rickshaws, buses, trucks, oxcarts, Bicycles, walkers, and wandering animals.  Fortunately it's a rural area, so the overall traffic isn't dense.  Lots to look at, as always.

    We arrive at our lodging, Kanha Eco Village Resort, where we are the only guests for 3 nights.   Only the grumpy manager? accountant? And the extremely kind dining room manager speak any English at all.    But we get lots of hovering service.   We have a comfortable little cottage with porch.   Grounds are parched with overgrown brown long grasses (cut by village women with sickles the day we left- ah ha women do get to cut grass in hot sun by hand!). There's a nice pool, but since temps dip into low 50s in eve, can't imagine water wasn't icey.   We eat what is prepared for us for lunch and dinner.   Food was great here . . .  Always some different veg soup, spicy dal, variety of spicy veg dishes, hacked up chicken, great fish cakes one eve, etc.   Kingfisher beer.  Dining mgr had a restaurant for several years in Kerala State in the South.   

    Each of our 3 days here  we followed this routine.   At 5am hotel staff would arrive at our door with Nescafe.   Then we'd suit up for low temps in an open jeep and wait for a driver to fetch us at 5:30.   He'd deliver us to the park, inside which only jeep safaris are now permitted.  It all worked like clockwork. Within the next hour, jeeps, drivers, guides, and tourists assembled at the gate.    Our passports were collected each time (no doubt entered into the proverbial Indian ledger) and we waited to be assigned to a jeep, driver, and guide. At exactly 6:45 the gate would be opened and assembled jeeps would proceed through the park.   The park, also a tiger reserve, is 900 sq kms, with a 1000 sq km buffer zone.  About 100 tigers live here, and about the same number of leopards (much much shyer).   Only 80 vehicles are allowed in the park at a time.   Decades ago the govt relocated 26 villages - more than 600 families that previously resided on the land.   At least the park Now provides employment for many locals.

    We actually go on a total of 4 safaris, 3 am ones and one pm one.  Both guides are very good and drivers and jeeps are really adept at zipping around the dirt and paved roads and through t he occasional stream in pursuit Of the tiger.   We do see a tiger one am, a "small" male.  He runs across the road about 30 feet in front of our jeep.  Very exciting!   But he was too sudden and fast for us to get a picture.   Over the course of our safaris we also saw langur monkeys, 4 kinds of deer, Indian bison, jackals, wild boar, a mongoose, and a few new species of birds.    We had 3 nice days, cold enough in very early am to warrant long underwear, a fleece,hat and gloves, but warming up to the 70s or so once the sun is fully up.   The safaris, though somewhat repetitive, were fun.   It was interesting to see how well managed the park seemed to be.   Nice to be in an Indian location with no trash at all.   And it's beautiful forest of tall sal trees and some open grassland.   No visitors or guides are permitted to get out of the jeeps,   and picnic breakfasts, packed by guests' hotels, may only be eaten in the canteen Bldg in the center of the park.  

    The park closed on Wednesday afternoon when we were there, so Mr. G, now coming down with the cold, took the opportunity to rest, and I went to the local village to see market day with a local guide who trailed me around.   Very busy market considering the size of the village.   Fun to see.  Lots of people and lots of color.   But of course how do they make any money?
    Many many vendors selling their same crops: potatoes, tomatoes, Cucumbers, eggplants, onions, peppers, peas, beans, and cauliflower.  Piles and piles of beautiful veggies, but all have same stuff.   Also for sale are live and dead catfish, what looks like carp, and a couple varieties of tiny fish, as well as live and hacked up chicken.   Also shoes, clothes, pots and pans, jewelry, and much more.   

    As we checked out of our lodging near Kanha, we needed to kill some time before our 9pm train from Jabalpur to Varanasi.   The "marble rocks view And waterfall" was suggested to us as a place to kill the time - we could leave our lodging near Kanha at 2, be driven the 3 hours or so back to Jabalpur and then go beyond another half hour or so to check out the view/falls.  We definitely didn't want to be sitting in the train station any longer than necessary.  We're picked up this time by two family members of the guide we had for two days in the park, who seemed to be some kind of contractor of the single Indian travel agent (Tour My India) that I'd had arrange our Kanha visit.   They take great care in getting to and around the marble place, then to a small hotel restaurant for restroom and small dinner and on to the train station.   The marble rocks place is interesting to see.  Kind of reminiscent of our Great Falls area, but with marble and no upkeep.   Full of vendors selling the  same ugly marble trinkets.  Full of families visiting.   Full of trash, but dramatic crags of marble and rushing falls.  We try to dismiss our nice drivers once at the train station and correct platform but they insisted on seeing us onto the train.  They're such nice young guys I can't help but worry about them driving the 3 hours back to Kanha IN THE DARK!

    We're bound for Varanasi, this time though only A/C second class, which seems to mean smaller berths and a curtain, rather than a locking door.  Other than paying on a scale for a certain class coach, you can't really choose your type of berth (4 or 2 person).  Some effort is made to keep family members together etc.    When we find our berth, a contemporary
    Indian couple is seated on the lower bunks (our seats)  The husband perhaps understands and perhaps speaks a little English.  He manages to communicate his or his wife's need for a lower,rather than upper bunk.  Though neither is older than we are, we had to admit they didn't look all that capable of hoisting themselves up top.   So my nice husband offers up first his and then my lower bunk.   Oh well, sleeping (or not sleeping) on a shelf is sleeping on a shelf. .  .  Though you do get your set of clean sheets, a pillow, and a heavy blanket.   We couldn't ask for quieter roommates, lights out at 10 and not a peep out of them till 5:30 .     No so quiet otside our shared berth though.   Some guy talks loudly nonstop on the other side of our curtain for at least 20 minutes, possibly on his cell.   We suppress the urge to wring his neck.  Then there's some commotion just outside the curtain.  I peer out and see two khaki uniform guys with stick/gun herding another guy, complaining loudly, in front of them.  Not sure of his offense, possibly smoking.   Things did settle down thereafter though and I'm sure we must have managed an hour or two of sleep.   It's not the shelves, but the motion, I think, that keeps me awake.  

    Our 7:05 arrival in Varanasi is delayed by 45 minutes just before the platform, who knows why.    When we finally get off the train, We're immediately spotted by our cheerful driver arranged by the hotel.  I step in a big pile of poop just before the car.  The driver laughs and says "no problem, it's good luck."  he drives us part way to our lodging, Kedareswar B&B.   Here he calls another guy, who arrives on foot to help us walk the rest of way (3 or 4 blocks?) where no cars are permitted.   The porter takes my bag and bumps it along the cobble stones, through cow and dog poop etc, etc.   Mr. G, who insists on carrying, rather than rolling, his bag, is not a happy camper at this point and wondering what weird lodging I've selected this time. - until we arrive and find a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Ganges and a small clean room with its own balcony and similar view.

    Impacted:  we definitely thought food at Umaid good enough to forgo going elsewhere, nice space too, especially if warm enough to sit outside.

    Next up: Varanasi

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    "ah ha women do get to cut grass in hot sun by hand"

    Right. Women get to do back-breaking un- or badly- paid labor in the fields. Mending roads. Hauling stuff. Driving or guiding? No. But with the advent of call-centers, women - at least some women - finally have the opportunity of work that will allow them independence, and a life not entirely circumscribed by their villages and families. The societal disruption may be one reason behind things like the Delhi rape.

    " At 5am hotel staff would arrive at our door with Nescafe."

    You mean you got up early for the game drives but not for the Taj??

    Still enjoying your report. Tx.

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    Sorry to hear the colds persist...we leave Monday evening and are still coughing a bit. Our first nights are in Delhi at the Claridges Feb 12 and 13, then Trident at Agra where we will "win" Valentines Day seeing the Taj by a full moon!

    Thanks for the tips on the safari-wear. We are just finishing up our packing and need to add in some lightweight fleece! ( I've been tracking the weather for several Indian destinations, and have noted the 50F nights in Rajasthan).

    After you get back, I suggest you read "The 100-ft Journey" which will be an excellent transition from India back to the Western World :-) It is about an Indian family that moves from Mumbai to England and then France as the son grows up to be a Michelin starred chef. The storytelling is fantastic. I guess it has been made into a movie, but I suggest reading the book. I forgot I was reading a novel and started relating to it as if it were an autobiography. Perhaps that was because I was reading it as an ebook and did not have the cover to remind me.

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    OH...a friend of ours alerted us to a possible strike at Indian banks set for Monday the 10th. Supposedly only two days, but you might want to be sure you have enough on you to make it through.

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    Yes, Thursdaysd, I fear this is true. Here 's my explanation of why. In early am the animals are better. Later there may not be any to see t o speak of. The Taj on the other hand isn't going anywhere.
    Dawn or eve may show it off to better advantage, but it will still be wonderful mid day. Maybe it's age, or fact that we have more time for these trips thar has removed the urge to tear around maximizing an already good experience. Felt the same way last year in Argentina. Eg. The frequently asked ? "must I see both the Brazilian and Argentine sides of Iguazu ". Should I view the glacier from the park, the boat, and walk on it too? Well, no, it's a spectacular site. You'll enjoy any one of those experiences enough that you won't HAVE TO HAVE the other. These quests can take lives of their own sometimes
    Such that we make ourselves crazy. Just my take. . .

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    Well, I agree that the Taj is magical any time, it's just MORE magical at dusk and dawn, when you can watch the marble blush different shades. Plus you have a shot at seeing it with MANY fewer people at dawn. It's one reason to spend the night in an otherwise skippable town rather than doing a day trip from Delhi. But we all have different priorities. (I saw Iguaza from both sides, but I didn't have to buy a visa to do so.)

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    Mr. G, who insists on carrying, rather than rolling, his bag, is not a happy camper at this point and wondering what weird lodging I've selected this time. - until we arrive and find a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Ganges and a small clean room with its own balcony and similar view.>>

    We've had similar experiences - me crossing my fingers that the place I've booked will be as nice as it looked, DH looking sideways at me as the road gets narrower and the location more remote. 9/10 times it works out well; the other 1 - well, 9/10 isn't a bad strike rate, is it?

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    Varanasi, Udaipur, and Rawla Narlai

    We spent 3 nights in Varanasi- "the holy city" - on the Ganges.  
    Our little B&B, Kedareswar, served us well.   We had a small clean room with a balcony shared with the room next door.   Only about 6 or so rooms here.  
    They serve a nice included breakfast on the roof, which also looks directly onto the Ganges action.   The building is owned by 4 brothers who grew up in another family house nearby.   They also own one of the big wooden canoe like boats that ferry tourists up and down the Ganges, making it very convenient to do boat  trips from the hotel.

    Someone we met later in our travels described Varanasi as "out there".  
    As apt a description as any I'd say.   We walked quite some distance along the ghats (the sets of steps that lead down into the river).   Warm sunny day.  
    Here we really experience the sights and sounds and smells of India!
    On our walk we encounter cows, goats, boars, bulls, wretched dogs,
    Holy men, beggars, vendors, and other tourists.   Of course there are many people bathing, standing, washing, and more in the river.   

    We stop for quite some time and watch cremations at the "burning ghat.". 
    There's a tall deserted clock tower kind of building set back from the ghat 
    Where tourists seem to be funneled, as only families of the deceased and workers are allowed into the actual cremation area on the shore.     Of course enterprising young men have taken to hanging out up there and appointing themselves as "hospice workers" who " look after people who have come to die" but also tell tourists about the cremation project and then do their best to collect "donations" .The cremation ceremony is ghoulishly fascinating.   Wrapped bodies are carried on simple stretchers down to the river edge, where a bit of water is splAshed on the body to cleanse/purify it.   After a bit of drying, the body is placed on a large prepared pile of wood, sprinkled with ghee and set on fire.   Supposedly  it takes 3 hours for the process to complete.   We're intrigued by the fact that the feet are always sticking out, uncovered,  and seem the last to succumb to flames.   Cremations continue all day, at the rate of about 50 or so per day.   3 or 4 are in process as we watch.   Pregnant women, small children, snake bite victims and a few other categories of people are not cremated, merely deposited in the river.    The breastbones of men and hips of women are hardest to burn, so are also often just tossed in river as well.   The govt. Has built an electrified crematorium nearby to try to reduce the amount of body parts in the river, but we were told that it hasn't  yet been that effective.  

    After our ghat walk we ate a late lunch at the simple Lotus Lounge, a few buildings down from our B&B.   It's mostly known for its "safe" mineral water washed veggies,  so we do avail ourselves of the opportunity to eat a real salad, our first in many weeks. . .  The restaurant seems to be on its last legs though, they are out of half their listed menu items, slow and confused service etc.   We found restaurant choices to be pretty limited in Varanasi.  Our B&B host sends us away from the ghats and into the EXTREMELY HECTIC streets,  Led by a local boy, to the Aman Indian restaurant, part of the Broadway Hotel.   Here they serve good Indian food and  Kingfisher beer in tall Water glasses with napkins wrapped around.   Guessing they don't actually have a license either. . .  We manage to get there and back to the B&B Through the narrow winding cobblestone streets without being killed in insane traffic. 

    Earlier that eve, sunset time, we ask our host to arrange a boat ride for us.  
    A nice French couple, also staying at our B&B accompanies us.   We're rowed by a strong young boatman who speaks some tourist English.  These evening boat trips all converge at the central main ghat to view the aarti ceremony - Hindu ceremony offering light to a deity - in this case Mother Ganges.  Many people are crowded on land on steps and rooftops in addition to all the tourists viewing from assembled boats in the river.  Small groups of men on a big raised stage, do synchronized movement of sets of lights.   Also there is some singing.    Interesting to see though rather repetitive.   Interesting too to watch the crowd of boatmen jockey for position, move from one parked boat to another and call out to one another.   A real crowd scene, though mostly quiet and respectful during the performance.   

    On day two we get up early to do a sunrise boat trip on the river.   The purpose of going early is to see more of the early am river action with the ghats and buidings on land lit from the east.  Indeed the light is very nice, and we take many pictures.   This voyage also takes us bu the burning ghat which we'd observed from land the day before.   Our much older boatman (rowing for 30 years he said) gives us info on the cremations,   Pretty much matching what we'd heard the day before.  After a nice leisurely breakfast on our rooftop, we ask our host to get us an auto rickshaw to take us to Sarnath, several kms  beyond town, where there is a Large Buddhist Stupa, an archeological museum, a 1930s Buddhist temple, and ruins of a Buddhist 
    Monastery.   Buddhists from all over the world make pilgrimages here because it is said to be the place where Buddha gave his first teachings after his enlightenment.  While we're looking around in the temple and taking some pics of the lovely paintings on the wall we're approached by a handful of unusually tall and handsome young Indian men who want a picture with the old bald white guy.    We discover that they are all members of a national volleyball team and have a few moments of fun conversation with them.   I make sure to get a picture of them too!

    This visit takes the entire afternoon if only because we get caught in a huge 
    Traffic jam on the way.  Our rickshaw driver says it happens frequently near a close by roundabout that is he says "completely undisciplined. " What, as compared to the rest of city traffic in India?.?.   Though skilled, he's not a patient driver and tries lots of ways round the jam, with ultimately not much success.  I really didn't mind the delay, since in the meantime there's so much to watch passing in the opposite direction:  school kids in uniform on bike and foot, sellers of everything imaginable, animals, etc. 

    That eve we decide to return to the Indian restaurant we'd visited on our first night.   We carefully pick our way through the narrow alleys outside our hotel.  We come upon another traffic jam, this one due to yet another wedding.   We watch the action  for awhile and take some pics until suddenly Mr G starts to feel odd.   We sit down on a curb for a bit and collect ourselves.   Abandon our dinner plan and retrace our steps back to the hotel.   We had been doing so well   digestion wise up to then!   And this was a day we'd had very little to eat, the usual hotel breakfast- omelet, fruit, and coffee, and an orange from a vendor in the pm.   But always hard to pinpoint the culprit.  Our hotel makes me another omelet for dinner and tea and toasts for the Delhi Belly guy.    
    We crash early.

    Next am Mr G is relatively stable.  We check out and get taxi for airport.   This means two guys again drag our bags down the dirty skinny lanes to the point where cars are allowed and a taxi  is waiting.   We take an uneventful and on time short  flight to Delhi, and then an hour or so later another short flight to Udaipur in Rajastan state.  We don't bother to arrange transport with the hotel since everything had been going smoothly so far.   instead we just take an airport prepaid taxi.   In the thick of Udaipur the driver pulls into a parking lot and motions to several sets of steps beyond or up the street and around the corner, saying something about driving being difficult from that point or no cars allowed,  or we know not.   We realize that we are at the end of his line.   No way we'll make it up steps, so we pull the bags up the congested street in the direction driver had pointed, asking directions again along the way.   Up a short hill and back down and through a little alcove at last is the reception desk of our splendid Jagat Niwas hotel.   It's an old palace and really charming.  Rooms on lots of different levels facing various courtyards lined with fabulous dahlias, fountains, mini-shrines.   While our room does not have windows looking out on Udaipur's lovely Lake Pichola - hey what do you want for $50 a night - it is dandy in every other respect.  We have breakfast every  am in the hotel restaurant that DOES have all its lovely arched windows, some open others not, on the lake.   The entire lake is lined with similar beautiful old white palaces.   In the middle sits the big old Lake Palace, now a swanky Taj hotel.   Nearly next to us is the beginning of the enormous and wonderful old city palace.   Mr G  is still feeling less than stellar, so he rests in the room and I have the perfect opportunity for shopping!   Have a great time schmoozing just shops outside out hotel.   Have a friendly tailor make me two salwar kemeezes, cotton pants and tunic tops worn by many Indian women to be picked up next day.  Also buy a necklace, a pair of colorful fabric sandals, And two metal tribal figures.

    Mr G rallies and allows a barber to give him a great haircut, shave, and neck massage for $5.    We go for a sunset boat trip on the lake.  This time a small motorized boat, carrying about a dozen of us.    Beautiful to see the sunset and then all the old buildings  in and around the lake light up.   

    Have a nice dinner at the hotel restaurant looking out over the lake.   Good Indian food.   We are eating way too much naan . . . 
    After another lake view breakfast next day we take on the enormous city palace and the nearby very elaborate Jagdish Mandir Hindu temple, both dating back to 17th century.   The palace, part of which is still occupied by Udaipur's royal family, takes hours to explore and is full of other visitors.  
    Afterwards we collapse at the outdoor palace  cafe for a beer and our first pizza in India.  It's refreshingly bland and boring.   Then Mr G sits  on a bench while I power tour the  Crystal  Gallery - huge collection of 1870s crystal: bed, tables, vases, chandeliers, glasses.   

    I pick up my tailored clothes and chat some more with the tailor, a very genial guy.   That night we take a rickshaw 10 minutes round part of the lake to the Ambrai restaurant, directly across the lake from our hotel.  Unlike our rooftop restaurant, Ambrai is a lake level ,open patio, part of the also nice looking Amret haveli hotel.  Another atmospheric lake spot.   We have good dinner and nice service, a few fireworks evn light up the sky, no doubt another wedding somewhere nearby.   We survive a crazy amusement like ride rickshaw drive on way back.   When one narrow alley is blocked by yet another wedding procession, our driver tears around a corner to an even narrower lane as a detour, with us holding on for dear life.   Good thing those little machines are nimble!

    It would be really easy to linger by the lake a few more days, but we must move on to other spots in Rajastan.   We check out of our great hotel and 
    Are picked up by a driver for the several hour drive from Udaipur to our overnight stop on the way to Jodhpur.   We decided to break up the rather long Udaipur- Jodhpur drive by staying one night alomg the way at another great old restored Bldg: Rawla  Narlai, owned by the local Maharana.   It sits in the middle of the small and humble village of Narlai, next to a huge rock hill.
    300! Temples dot the surrounding countryside, as well as a few small lakes.
    The first hotel we've stayed in actually managed by a woman.   It's a gorgeous restoration,  many seating areas in the multi level courtyards, beautiful pillows, great bougainvillea growing down old walls.  Beautiful pool.  Nice fountains and sculpture.   Attentive service by Turbaned local men.   Big modern bathrooms, lovely carved super comfortable bed.  We're greeted by 3 young Brits who, via a family connection, have got themselves the great gig of "interning" here during part of their gap year travels. . . .  We take their advice and climb the many stairs to the top of the big rock for a wonderful 360 view of the area. Hope to have burned off a naan or two.  .  . 
    Meet the ubiquitous school kids on the wway back through the rather quiet village.  Sit outside our room and have a beer.  Chat with our neighbors in the next room, nice British couple contemporaries of ours.   

    Then we assemble in the courtyard for our complimentary drink with the owner.  On this night not actually the owner but a cousin of a cousin of the owner.   Still a Maharana in his own right, though.  So finally after seeing so many old pics of them and hearing so much about so many of them we get to meet one.  As expected, he's quite charming and tells us a bit about the old family home and history of the 6th century step well we're about to visit.
    We're joined by another fun British couple.  We 4 have signed on for the hotel's special Stepwell Dinner.   The guys are crowned with colored turbans and we women are wrapped in thin colorful shawls.  Then for a mere 5000 inr ($80 !!! +) for Each of us, we are driven in two oxcarts maybe a mile or so on a dirt road in full moonlight to an enormous abandoned step well from the  6th century.  A step well is exactly what it sounds like, a deep well with steps and carving down the sides.   Candlelight adorns the steps all around and down.   Guess they did have to pay some folks to light all those candles.
    A huge bonfire has been built in front of low sofas and tables.   We're served 
    Wine by the elegant servers, then breaded and fried appetizers of various veggies.   Finally we're each presented with a an elegant tray of The traditional Thali- a selection of veg and nonveg curries, rice, bread, and sauces.  Dessert is a sweet grated carrot dish.   Believing falsely that surely the wine is included in our 5000 ticket, we all linger over another glass of wine and enjoy the great setting and fun conversation,  laughing alot.   Meanwhile a local musician plays soft sitar like music from somewhere down in the stepwell.   An expensive, potentially hokey, but actually enormously enjoyable eve.  Unlike anything we'll ever experience again for sure!  And hey we did get to keep the turbans and shawls. . . 

    Next up Jodhpur. . . 

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    Re: Indian wine. At the beginning of the trip I was feeling like even the Indian wine was expensive. But by now I seem to be weakening. Last night I enjoyed a half bottle of Fratelli red something for 700 inr. Now I'm Thinking hmmmm. $4 a glass or so, a deal where I come from. Wine's not great, but not horrible either.

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    Hi Mrs G! We are in Udaipur, ready tohead south for our last week, and had a not-so-good glass of Fratelli red...but I am guessing you had the cabernet sauvignon, which would be their best shot, I think. We tried a Cabernet franc Shiraz blend and decided to refer to it from now on as Red Masala wine. I don't have nearly your discipline to report on the road, but cheers to you! Hope your trip has continued to be as wonderful. We feel like we are living a movie.

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    Jodhpur and Jaisalmer
    Left the lovely Rawla Narlai reluctantly the next day.  Might have been nice to chill there another day.  Picked up by our driver Padma for the several hours drive to Jodhpur.   Midway on this drive and the following leg the drivers all seem to suggest a lunch stop at a roadside hotel, obviously THE stop for tourists coming through. . . Claim to fame being clean bathrooms, Shops full of tourist crap, and expensive ( well for India)  blah food.   
    It may be that drivers get free lunch/commission for ferrying tourists on the road to these few places.   

    Jodhpur is a large but fairly orderly city.  We stay 3 nights at Ratan Vilas,
    Where we are greeted by a woman!  A nicely restored haveli.  On a busy street, but walled off and set back from the street with a beautiful lawn and garden,  its own little oasis.  We have a nice big room on the second floor with a little seating area in front.    Hotel restaurant is under a fancy tent on the front lawn.   Since food was very good here and service excellent, we got lazy again and ate there all three nights.  We've hit on a system by now where we order one veg dish, one meat dish, rice, and naan- now gravitated to garlic naan.   That's more than enough for the two of us.   With a couple drinks these dinners are running in the twenties.   30s would be high!   Amazing.  Breakfasts have been included most places we've stayed.  Mostly we've been Eating omelets slightly spiced with some veggies (masala omelets), fruit (fresh right now is watermelon, papaya, orange, banana).   Unfortunately we're too early for mango season.   Coffee is usually instant Nescafe, so we often replace it with our emergency Starbucks Via instant stash.   We've enjoyed chai from time to time too, offered by shop owners, on arrival at hotels, etc.

    On day 1 in Jodhpur we mostly cruised the city's fabulous Mehrangarh Fort, dating from the 15th century.      Could probably have walked there from our hotel, but opted to reduce that hassle by taking an auto rickshaw.     Spent most of the day exploring the fort and it's several wonderful castles and museum with beautiful palanquins and other interesting pieces.   After the fort we got another rickshaw and had the driver take us 15 minutes to the opposite hill to visit the Umaid Bhawan Palace.   This palace was built by local royal family in the 1930s.   Currently only a third of it is open to the public.
    The other thirds are a swanky Taj Hotel and the royal family residence.     

    On day 2 we arranged a trip to the nearby Bishnoi Villages through our hotel.  
    A nice guy by the name of  Deepak from Bishnoi Village Safaris picks us up in an open jeep and we bounce out of town and stop 3 places getting demos of pot throwing, weaving, and an opium ceremony.    It's a tourist route for sure, but we were the only visitors at each stop and there was no pressure from anyone to buy much.  The pottery was simple and utilitarian, the weaving beautiful dhurrie rugs.   The most interesting part of our visit to the potter's home was seeing A 3 minute old goat and watching its new mother clean and care for it with gentle assistance by her owners.  Then as we watched,  a second kid (apparently not unusual) arrived, but sadly was stillborn.       Nearby was a tiny 3 month old human babe, in an interesting fabric/sling like cradle.    This family, like several others nearby, was Muslim.   Our guide said the govt had provided them assistance in starting the pottery biz because they were previously without any real livelihood.  The actual Bishnois, on the on the other hand, are a sect of Hindu, who follow 29 specific principles for living a virtuous life.  

    The opium ceremony was performed by an older turbaned, traditionally dressed man.  He sat cross legged, showed us a sugar lump size chunk of opium, ground it with mortar and pestle, and added water to make a tea.   He then strained it a few times to his satisfaction and then drank some from the palm of his hand.   As our guide was narrating this process, I was considering how to respond if offered some (as I'd read sometimes occurs in this welcoming tea ceremony).     We were spared the decision though since none was offered.   Later I asked Deepak if tourists ever participated in the ceremony.  His response was no  as it's of course illegal because of its addictive properties.   I asked if addiction was a problem in the villages  and he said it was a BIG  problem.

    The last stop on our village Safari was a small lake to see some water birds.
    We saw a single huge pelican and a few other familiar birds.   We bounced back to Deepak's own village and house so he could jump out and have his nephew drive us back to town.  Nephew was wearing a shirt with "Marwar Studs" and a horse head on back.   Marwars are a particular breed of horse dating back centuries in the Marwar (local) kingdom.  They are identifiable by their Inwardly turned ears.   Nephew said that horses were his thing and he told us about a few races he'd been in.  

    Next day we were met at 10 by our driver Padma.  He explained that his 
    "health was down", and that, if we didn't mind, his brother would drive us from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer.   We agreed to the replacement and also asked to visit the Jain temple in Osian on the way.   All worked out fine since Padma 's bro Tejpal  was more talkative and provided more info along the way.   In fact toward the end of our drive we believe he may have quite excitedly told the whole history of Jaisalmer, but he got going on such a roll that we were soon totally befuddled by the speed and cadence of his Hinglish.   As he barreled on from the front seat, we exchanged glances of shock and awe  in the back.   
    Also interesting to see on the way was the big military presence around Jaisalmer, which is just some 120 kms ? Or so from the border with Pakistan.   Tejpal identified one area as a nuclear testing ground....       We're in the desert now.

    Our 3 nights in Jaisalmer were rather pleasantly peaceful.  It's called "the golden city". Because all the buildings are of sandstone.  So in the sun light it does take on a golden hue.     It's a town of just 80,000 - 1000 of whom live within the walls of Jaisalmer's very interesting old "living" fort.   We stayed in yet another great little B&B    The 9 room Hotel Pleasant Haveli, perhaps a 15 minute walk from the fort gate.  Though it looks like a traditional haveli,  it was constructed just 5 years ago by owner Naru.  He and the hotel mgr Krishna were great hosts.  Hotel is simply but nicely furnished and has a terrific rooftop with perfect view of fort on top of nearby hill.  Included breakfast is served up there.  We also ate 2 dinners up there because it was just so pleasant and food was fine.   Both our hosts and a jewelry designer I'd talked to earlier in the day recommended the nearby Trio restaurant, so we walked over there another night.   They have a fab view of the fort AND a palace from their rooftop, good food, and even some live local music.   

    Mr. G was down battling sciatica our first day in Jaisalmer, something he experiences occasionally.  No doubt 4 hours of jeep bouncing one day followed by a 6 hour car drive the next did him in.    He was really gimpy.  We hoped that a day of rest would repair him.   So I bravely set out to the fort on my own, wending my way along a narrow cobbled street full of small shops, motorcycles, walkers, cows, carts, etc.  Explored the fort area for several hours, visiting the museum area and spending probably an hour with 
    An interesting jewelry designer stationed just at the museum exit.  He and now his brother, as well as their father before them who had received national acclaim/rewards,  make really interesting silver rings with intricate cut out designs.   I ended up buying two, one with Hindu gods and the other symbols of "Tour of India". All places we 'd been on this trip.   He was pleased to tell me that his father had made a Christian pendant from sandstone  for Bill Clinton when he visited India some time ago.    Jeweler was a delightful guy.   Made me a nice cup of chai too.

    Mr G made a remarkable recovery and was fit again for action on day two.  We lazed around on the rooftop over a leasurely breakfast and then set off for the fort again, wandering the narrow streets for a few hours and visiting the several elaborate Jain temples inside.  Returned to the hotel in the afternoon to set out on the desert safari we'd Arranged through the hotel.   This is a big tourist activity in Jaisalmer.    One can choose Just a few hour trip lasting till sunset,  through dinner on the desert, or through the night 
    In a tent or under the stars.    You can ride a camel if you choose....   We chose the shortest trip and didn't plan to  ride camels.   We were remembering riding elephants elsewhere in Asia and feeling that we got the idea well enough, and were uncomfortable enough, that 15 minutes, rather than the hour and half we rode, would have been more than sufficient!   

    Our guide Dev and a driver arrived in a covered jeep.  We are accompanied by yet another Delightful British couple Philip and Elizabeth from London and their personal Indian guide RG.   We four sit on opposing benches in jeep back.   Bump along out of town.   We make two stops on the way to our ultimate destination.   First is a large group of sandstone gazebo like tombs (cenotaphs).      The cenotaphs honor members of the local royal family. 
    Our guides explain that bodies would be cremated near the nearby river, or perhaps taken to the Ganges.   Ashes are interred in the tombs here and perhaps some in the Ganges as well.    Each tomb has a sandstone plaque in front with personal details.   All in Hindi though. . .  

    Next stop on our tour was the ruins of a deserted village, with a little reconstruction to show what it might have looked like on more prosperous times.    This village, as well as some 30 others on the area around Jaisalmer, was deserted when Jaisalmer ceased to be a stop on the silk route 400 or so years ago.   Walking around the ruins in late afternoon sun in WINTER/SPRING the sun feels hot.  We can only imagine summer here.   Indeed we realized on this trip that, while we knew it could be hot in India, we had no idea how hot- as locals in several places we visited mentioned summer temps of as high as 46 degrees centigrade.

    At last we arrive at our final destination, the edge of a large area of sand dunes called Sam Dunes.   There seem to be 4 camels saddled up and waiting,
    Despite our having said a number of times "no camels for us, thank you very much".    There seemed to be the mistaken assumption that at least one of us would be riding.   Oh well,  then let's just do it.. . .  But then they want both of us to share a single camel, as the other they said was young and maybe too fast??..   We declined to share as I'd read that sharing a single camel was even more uncomfortable than riding solo.  So Mr. G bravely accepted the wild one.   We watched as Elizabeth mounted her sitting steed.   Up went his front legs suddenly.  "[word for excrement censored by fodors]!".  Cried Elizabeth then as his back legs went up after.   Much laughter.    Then the rest of us followed suit hanging on to the small horn on the "saddle" for dear life.   Then we headed off over the dunes into the sunset.   So quiet and very lovely of course, and happily not quite as uncomfortable as an elephant and only a half hour ride!   We dismount, again hanging on for dear life and then take a seat on a ridge and, with a glass of wine provided for all by the Brits' guide, watch the sun slip below the opposing dunes.    It's just us and the occasional small black sand beetle, an interesting 1/2 inch bug that sits up on long legs for good sand walking.  Get in the jeep and bounce back to town in the dark.   Have another nice dinner on our hotel roof looking over at the lighted fort.

    We have a lot of time to kill next day because our train to Delhi doesn't leave until 5:15pm.  Walk over to the fort again and explore some small lanes we
    Didn't do in previous visits.  Have a nice long chat with a woman representing a womens craft cooperative and buy a few small things from her.   I express my pleasure in meeting a woman in the marketplace.    She's fluent in English so my question leads to some venting on her part re women's position in Indian society.  We have a small lunch right next to fort museum at a place named July 8.  Other guests at our hotel had mentioned having the best coffee there.   Talk to the proprietor, a real character.  An Indian born Australian resident who'd recently returned home to care for his aging mother.   We linger over a lassi and fresh mango juice and watch the action coming and going at the fort gate. . .  Get our Australian friend to make us some veg biriyani for dinner on the train.

    Bid sad farewell to Naru and Krishna at the hotel.  They summon a rickshaw to take us to the train station.   Since this station is small and there will be very few trains other than our overnight express to Delhi we ignore the porters this time and manage to find our  track, coach, and cabin pretty much on our own.   This time we're in "first class" with two lower bunks.   When we arrive our 4 person cabin  is already occupied by a young couple from Vancouver.   We decide to split the space in half and give them one upper and lower bunk rather than the two uppers they had reserved.     Train pulls out and we have some good conversation about our travels . . .  Then eventually all revert to our individual electronic devices. . . .  At 10:30 the Vancouverites are served their purchased train dinners.   For some reason the train remains at the station in Jodhpur from 10:30 until 12am.      All lights out by 12 or so.   My lower bunk is directly across from the male half of our roommates.   He lies down on his back and falls immediately asleep for the rest of the night.   I despise him.   4 hours or so later (have I been asleep? Probably not) someone knocks at door of our cabin, looking for her bunk.   She comes back later with conductor in tow.  After some wrangling with the Vancouvers, the conductor is made to understand that the woman has a space next door,vacated by the V's friend who got off at an earlier stop.   The Vs had blithely distributed their 4 tickets without regard to name matching bunk number.   Not a good way to behave in face of Indian bureaucracy.  . . 

    Presumably because of long stop at Jodhpur we arrive in Delhi at least an hour late.  Seeing only steps ahead we immediately contract a couple porters to carry our bags.   Two nearly get in a fist fight over us.   They leave us at what they tell us is the main gate.   No driver in sight though, so Mr. G dials number of driver provided us.  He actually answers, had been waiting at another spot.  Thank god for that cell phone. . . .  He arrives, takes bags and leads us to the equivalent of a Ford Escort!!  for our  7 hour drive from Delhi toRamnagar.

    Next up:  Stalking the tiger again at Jim Corbett Natl Park.    And.   
    Delhi

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    What a delightful read. How wonderful that you saw a peaceful, uncrowded sunset in the desert. We were joined by a hundred or so other tourists, as well as singers, musicians, snake charmers, magicians, fortune tellers and beer salesmen...

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    It was a long drive from Delhi to Ramnagar near Corbett Natl Park, especially in that Ford Escort like car (7 hours or so). Traffic at noon on weekend in Delhi was horrible. Took us at least an hour just to get out of town from the DLI rail station. But fortunately after that we moved along pretty quickly on toll roads etc. The rural drive was, as always, quite lovely, vast yellow fields of mustard, and vast green ones of wheat. We made the obligatory stop at a tourist hotel on the way for a meal. Sad live camel chained outside for decor. This hotel had a huge banquet like restaurant, completely empty when we arrived. The dozen or so idle restaurant staff lept upon us when we arrived. We were probably a disappointment I'm sure as we ordered our by now standard single veg and non veg dishes to split, naan, rice, and water. No booze, no dessert. Food was good. Crappiest restroom yet though, if only due to two used sanitary napkins on floor of ladies. ewww. But what option would users have? there being, as seemed normal in Indian restrooms, NO TRASHCANS.

    We drove through the busy town of Ramnagar, beginning to see signs for the park. We were scarcely out of town, in what seemed the middle of nowhere, when we stopped in front of a lone free standing concrete house. Much to our surprise we'd arrived at our first night's lodging.

    Some background now on the arrangements we made for Corbett.
    When I began researching the park (mostly on site called indiamike as there wasn't much info on travel boards elsewhere), one name kept coming up: Ramesh Suyal of Tigers in Corbett. Though it would probably have been possible to arrange transportation to and from Delhi, lodging, safaris, etc via the park website or through another hotel in the buffer zone outside the park, it seemed like it could be a time consuming hassle. And I liked Ramesh's mission - to get tourism money directly to the locals. Plus he was quick to respond to all inquiries etc. So ultimately I just decided to put us in Ramesh's hands. We agreed that we'd stay two nights at park lodging and two nights at Ramesh's recently opened homestay. Though which nights would be where was never quite clear . . . and no promises were made that Ramesh himself would be our guide in the park. He's obviously in great demand.

    So when our driver declared us to have arrived, it turned out that we'd arrived at Ramesh's house. We were welcomed by his wife, Asa, who speaks little English, and introduced to several other family members. We were shown our large simply furnished room with attached bath, plain but all new and spic and span. The house has another guest room on the first floor, two other rooms and bath for family, a small kitchen and common small dining area. Steps go up to a big rooftop. Asa fixed us some nice chai as we settled in, wondering when/if we'd see Ramesh and when/if we'd have dinner. Before long, however, Ramesh got home from his day's activities and greeted us warmly. Then the 3 of us sat down to a great dinner cooked by Asa (sadly she cooked but didn't join us). After dinner Ramesh got out a bottle of rum and we all had a bit - diluted with mineral water - as is perhaps the rural custom. Great conversation with Ramesh about his background (started as a restaurant employee in the park), his current business as nature guide and travel biz entrepreneur, his family, and Corbett. I asked him for an update on the whereabouts/status of the man-eating tigress that had received international press in the last couple weeks after killing 10 people in villages around Corbett in 6 weeks or so. The tigress was believed to have wandered away from the park into nearby sugar cane fields/villages etc. We had read that a shoot to kill hunt was on for her - some local royals had been recruited as well for that purpose. As far as we knew, she was still on the loose. Ramesh's take was interesting. He seemed to think that the tigress was probably now back in the park and that therefore no one had anything to worry about and there would be no need to shoot her, the theory being that there was plenty for her to eat once back in the park (well, they do have 50,000 deer after all!). Naturally he felt that the media coverage hadn't been helpful to the park's conservation efforts - that it was sensationalized.

    After dinner one of Ramesh's 8 year old twin sons brought out his coin collection to show us. He and his brother were just the cutest little guys. He opened a small jar and identifed the country of each coin - one by one. We added one of each US denomination, though he had duplicates of most. Just like his Dad, an enterprising young man. Ramesh had already acquired a couple jeeps, an office, a new house cum homestay, a scooter for ASA, and some shiny bikes for kids. So he's doing well. He told us he hoped to retire at an early enough age so he could just enjoy life without being so busy. Already has plans to turn the business over to his daughter (the oldest child)in another decade or so. We wished we'd had the opportunity to spend more time with him. He alluded to the possibility of showing us another habitat on our last day in the area, but made no promises.

    Next am very early we were served a good breakfast by Asa and then collected by Ramesh's employees, who would be with us for the next 4 days. Khem was our guide and Gophal our driver. Ramesh went off to fulfill other obligations. They loaded our luggage in the back of the open jeep,gave us blankets (yay!) we climbed aboard, and off we went to the park, arriving at the gate just before park opening at 6:45 am. Unlike at Kanha, where our driver/guide registered us at the park, at Corbett we were summoned into the office ourselves to complete the usual Indian paperwork . . . the register, the other forms with carbon copies. . . etc. etc.

    Took a few pics around the gate, including one of the statue of the famous Jim Corbett, an Englishman born near the park in 1875. Corbett's father had moved to India several years earlier after being named postmaster for the area. Corbett enjoyed nature from an early age, became famous locally first as a hunter and tracker of animals and later as a supporter of wildlife conservation.

    Over the course of our first morning we slowly drove the 35 kms from the park gate to its deepest and most popular area Dhikala where we would spend 2 nights at the new Forest Reserve House. All told we made 5 jeep safaris in the park, early mornings and late afternoons. We liked our guide Khem, who had no doubt been selected for us by Ramesh because of his excellent knowledge of birds. He was great at finding and identifying birds for us, less great at telling us where to look for the bird (not easy under any circumstances and twice as hard in a second language, e.g. "follow the first branch in the big tree up till it branches again and there's the bird right in the foliage there at about 2:00, etc.") Nevertheless we added plenty of birds to our growing list of those seen in India - bringing the India total to over 250 species! In addition we saw 4 kinds of deer: spotted, samba, hog, and barking; an elephant, wild boar, several jackals, a cobra (just inside the gate of the Dhikala lodging campus - ie. maybe 50 yards from our hotel),monkeys of course, and yes - ANOTHER TIGER!

    The tiger siting was a great birthday present to me on our first afternoon in the park. Like Kanha, no one gets down in Corbett - all stay in jeeps. Driving along one of the roads we came upon a spot where several jeeps had converged. "Alarm calls" - usually made by deer when they smell/see tiger - had been heard in that area. All were waiting to see if tiger would appear. We waited briefly, then gave up and moved on. 20 or 30 yards down Khem excitedly said to our driver - tiger, tiger! - commanding driver to reverse. And there, just 7 meters or so from the road was an adult female resting in low bush. Being the first to site her, we got the best spot and view. Because of course as soon as we stopped the other jeeps joined us. We watched this tigress for quite awhile and took some pretty decent pictures. She looked at us without concern, yawned a few times and looked around ..

    The Dhikala "campus" where we stayed was larger than I had imagined. It's a beautiful area overlooking the wide Ramaganga River. Nothing fancy about it at all, more like a basic summer camp. Our room over the reception area in the New Forest Rest House was large but bare with a big but pretty hard bed and a newish bathroom with a crummy shower.
    It was bright though with a big picture window. Definitely not soundproof. But our expectations for lodging in the park were low based on what we'd read, so we were prepared.
    Meals were served buffet style in the plain large canteen/cafeteria area. All veg, no booze. But really good food!

    There were plenty of rhesus macaques (monkeys) on the campus, hence we were advised to be sure to keep our windows secured.
    (didn't need to tell us, we remember one trying to open our balcony door in Varanasi). They were fun to watch though.
    Every day when the jeeps would return from safari to the campus the macaques would hop into the open jeeps and search each one methodically for the smallest scrap of food or wrapping left by riders. Looked out our window one day and a macaque was shinnying down the water pipe next to our window.
    On the con side the "monkey problem" meant that the cafeteria
    offered no outside seating, which could have been nice there by the river in good weather.

    We really enjoyed the Corbett time. Just a beautiful park with several different habitats. Most is dense sal forest - beautiful very tall straight trees. Also extensive grassland areas, riverbeds, etc.

    We shared two meals at Dhikala with another of Ramesh's clients, a German/South African guy who'd read Jim Corbett's books as a small boy and wanted to see all the places Corbett had been. In talking to him we realized that he'd be the one monopolizing Ramesh over the next few days and we realized we weren't likely to see R again. However, since our new friend was also in the safari biz in Africa we couldn't really begrudge Ramesh this excellent opportunity for international networking ..

    After our two nights in the park we slept in the last day and then drove slowly out of the park - spotting some great hornbills and a few other new birds on the way. We arrived back at Ramesh's house about 5pm and bid goodbye to Khem and Ghopal. Asa gave us more chai and #1 daughter ushered us up to the roof, where the view over the fields and nearby village was wonderful as the sun went down. Ramesh had told us that leopards often pass by the house at night. Consequently A neighbor had asked him, when he built his house, to install more lighting around his house in the hopes that it would protect the other man's children who were forced to use the outside for a bathroom. Just as the light finally faded I saw movement in the tall wheat just behind the house. Looking with the binoculars I saw not leopards but two jackals quite close to the house. From the roof we also saw hornbills in nearby trees, many many egrets, and villagers on the road carrying firewood, sacks of potatoes etc on their heads. Also saw our first of what would by the next day be hundreds of Hindu pilgrims coming down the road carrying alters of offerings. Still unclear exactly why so many were out on these particular days - important religious dates of some sort obviously. We understood that they were walking to the Ganges and that village temples provided a resting place for them to rest and put down their burdens (off the ground) along the way. We did see hundreds along every road, even the highway, the following day almost all the way into Delhi.

    After our roof time, Asa made us another great dinner and we crashed. Though we never did see Ramesh again, all the logistics had been worked out well, as we were collected the next am at 8:30 by a different driver in a nice comfortable Toyota Innova for the long drive back to Delhi.
    With more sleep under our belts this time we both really enjoyed most of the drive BACK to Delhi - seeing all the Pilgrims walking on the road, looking at crops, so many trucks, etc. Guess too we were just aware of trip coming to an end and so more alertly taking everything in to hold in mind.

    Next up: Delhi

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    Glover--fantastic report! Thanks so much! Yes, "White Tiger" is a great book--glad you mentioned it here. A real page turner. I gave a copy of it in Hindi to our driver !!! (-:
    (For those of you who may be wondering why that is the perfect gift-it is the story of and written by the driver to a very wealthy Indian businessman).

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    galactus--i think misunderstood the syntax. The guy in WT is the driver to (employed by) the businessman. I didn't mean it is written TO the businessman. I can nitpick too ! ((-;

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    Final days! Delhi, London, and home

    Our driver didn't find it easy to locate our Delhi B&B, the highly rated Saubhag B&B in south New Delhi. But he persevered, calling our hostess twice and stopping to ask taxi drivers on the street a few times. Hence we were greeted on the street by Meera our hostess with the mostest in the late afternoon. She showed us to our fabulous room and asked if we'd like dinner later. Of course we said yes. We had a huge well decorated room and attached up to the moment bath. Outside our 3rd floor room was another large sitting room and small kitchen - to be shared with the single other room on the third floor. The second floor is laid out similarly. We caught up on internet we'd missed over the last several days in Corbett, rested a bit, and then went downstairs for dinner. Spent a bit of time in the lovely living room (with windows onto a nice enclosed garden)chatting with Meera and the single other guest present that eve. Then we 3 sat down to a wonderful dinner prepared by the resident cook as Meera bounced up and down chatting with us, attending to our every need, and helping us develop a plan for our Delhi stay. The other guest, an American woman traveling alone, was at the beginning of her 3 week trip, so we told of our train adventures and activities in places she'd also be visiting. Dinner was several veg dishes wonderfully prepared - including really tasty tomato chutney
    for which the B&B has now become somewhat famous. At the end of a two-month trip full of making arrangements and decisions each day about where to go/what to do/where to eat, we found it a pleasant relief to simply roll with the nice plan Meera created for us: included breakfast at the B&B, pick up by her favorite taxi man for a cycle rickshaw ride through the narrow winding streets of Chandni Chouk in Old Delhi, a visit to Jama Masjid (India's largest mosque), a walk around the Red Fort, a visit to Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, the most prominent Sikh temple in Delhi, Lodhi Gardens, and the Rajpath, wide boulevard connecting the presidential palace to the India Gate - a full day!

    We particularly enjoyed the Sikh temple as our Sikh driver was pleased to tour with us. Among other attributes, the temple is known for its amazing charitable feeding operation. Every day it serves 3 meals a day free to thousands of Sikhs and non Sikhs. No one is turned away. Touring the temple, one sees the huge hall where diners sit on the floor and eat trays of Thali provided. Outside glass doors, another hoard of folks sits waiting for the next "shift." The communal kitchen, usually part of the tour, is simply incredible, all volunteer run, with huge kettles of food being stirred, roti bread being made, vegetables being cleaned and chopped. A wonderful operation it seemed.
    We were sorry not to have had more time at Lodhi gardens, which was lovely, and would have required more time than we had available that day.

    Our driver Mr. Singh dropped us back at "home," where we had another great dinner. I really had intended to do some research and get some restaurant recs from Meera - and have at least one upscale dinner in Delhi before we left
    India. (Just to compare say 4 star restaurant Indian cooking with what we'd had over the course of our trip) But suddenly that just seemed unnecessary. While it might have been fun to be part of a restaurant scene, people watch etc, it seemed unlikely that we'd enjoy the food any more that we would at "home."

    Next day we shared Meera's other favorite driver with her other guest - as we planned a similar itinerary. After another great breakfast of delicious juice and coffee, homemade yoghurt - and our new favorite: a paratha (pan fried Indian flatbread) with a cooked egg on top, we were off with our driver to the Qutab Complex, location of the 73 meter high
    minaret - the tallest in India - and the first mosque in India. Lots of beautiful structures there in various states of ruin/restoration, so we spent quite some time walking around the site . Meanwhile the sky got darker and darker.

    Moved on to the Ghandhi Smriti where Gandhi spent the last days of his life and was later assassinated. Lots of interest here. Found it interesting just to read various Ghandi quotes on display and, even after a lot of reading, still couldn't absorb all the very interesting and well written texts on display describing the significance of India's First War of Independence in 1857. This was a great place to spend time reading history as the texts were under cover and rain had begun in earnest by now.

    Because of the rain we put off our trip to Humayun's Tomb and did a little indoor shopping instead at the the Delhi branch of the wellknown Fabindia store. Just looked, didn't buy. Lots of beautiful fabrics, evening purses, and other clothing/accessories I've mostly (sadly) no real use for .
    But a fun schmooze nonetheless. Our final stop was two small shops along the "Janpath" recommended by Meera to purchase two specific souvenirs we wanted. Thanks to Meera's sage advice we were able to find both and bargain well for good prices. (Apparently the very mention of her name strikes fear in the eyes of the merchants, ha ha). She told us stories of returning to shops with guests of hers whom she felt had been fleeced . . ). (After hearing those stories, we avoided doing a show and tell of items we'd purchased earlier in our trip - being sure we'd be exposed as the patheticly bad hagglers we generally are.)

    After another great dinner "at home" and good conversation with some other newly arrived guests, we readied ourselves to leave the following day.

    Had a leisurely final breakfast, enjoyed meeting Meera's husband, and were off with her driver to the airport. We highly recommend a stay with her in Delhi! While the lodging price per night may be higher than some other Delhi B&Bs, nothing was ever added for dinners, drinks, or laundry. So, in the the end, we considered it to be terrific value for our $$, given the high quality of hospitality provided.

    Our Virgin Air flight was on time. (Wow, so amazing how virtually all our arrangements worked perfectly in this long trip to India!) Caught up with some more Oscar nominated movies on the way home: 12 Years a Slave, Nebraska, Dallas Buyers Club. Watched more episodes of Breaking Bad and the very silly and hilarious Eric Idle "radio show" "What About Dick." This does help pass the time!

    Landed at Heathrow a little early round 5:45pm or so. After a great deal of rumination and research (including here on Fodors), we were determined to pass our overnight Heathrow layover in the city rather than at an airport hotel. We were a little apprehensive about our decision - thinking it might just turn out to be too much hassle for our tired selves. But we loved it! We were first in non UK holder passport line in immigration. Walked right up and thru. With a small overnight bag each (other bags were automatically checked thru to Dulles), we walked the 10 to 15 minutes to the tube, easily following great clear signage to Piccadilly line. Purchased our expensive single way tix (5.40 pounds) and 40 mins or so later got off at South Kensington station. Walked 5 mins to the very cool Sydney House hotel (one of a block of pristine and identical listed historic houses on lovely Sydney Street). We were checked in before 7:30pm. Rooms here are small but sleek, modern, and comfortable with great beds and baths - hey what do you want for a last minute discounted rate of 241 US (a mere 5 x what we paid for most lodging in India)? But what a great neighborhood. We had planned on walking down to the Sydney Arms pub for a pub dinner, but hotel reception recommended PJs in the other direction. Realized our mistake when PJs server said no beer on draft. But we stayed, Mr. G declared bottle beer excellent, I had some real red wine, and we split a stringy steak and ate good fries and arugula salads. A welcome back meal so to speak. After, we walked down the street to the Sydney Arms, which probably would have served our fantasies better, a pubbier atmosphere with beer on draft. We stayed for a pint and were in our cozy bed by 10:30. Slept really well, had a great shower, and were out of the hotel by 8am next day. Stopped for small breakfast and pretty good coffee at Pret a Manger where we watched the neighborhood wake up. Dashed across the street to tube station and were back at Heathrow easily in plenty of time for our 11:30am flight - feeling much better than had we been on a plane overnight! It was a nice sunny not terribly cold morning in London. We enjoyed looking at houses and backyards from the train on the way. We were amazed to see cherry trees and Bradford pears in full bloom on March 2!

    Landed in DC just before its next snowstorm . . a little disappointed that Spring hadn't yet arrived . . .

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    glover,

    I have really enjoyed reading your excellent and detailed trip report. What a wonderful journey! Thanks so much for sharing your adventures with all of us. Welcome home!

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    Glover, thanks for the finale! Indeed, Meera is wonderful--glad you found her!! All guests have great Meera stories, and great food stories of meals there--I won't bore you with mine. New Delhi has so, so many wonderful B and Bs now!!
    Considering your enjoyment of the Sikh temple, if you ever get back to India, you must try to get up to Amritsar (perhaps en route to Himachal Pradesh??) and see the Golden Temple. AMAZING!!

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    loved your report! we leave next week! I have no driver or guide for Delhi yet and may use hotel for that. Would you skip any of the sights you saw in Delhi if you had to do again?I def want to do sikh temple.
    J

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    What a fabulous trip report, and I bow down to your being able to do it on-the-spot! India can be "done" independently, as you have shown, if you have the time and focus. I'm not sure I could handle two months on the road, but you got to cover so much ground and visit additional places that I know we would have loved to have done. We just got back last night, and I've many photos to go through before I start our report. I feel fortunate to have been able to check in with this thread a couple of times as your trip went in reverse order to ours, and we were able to make some decisions based on your experiences!

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    Wonderful report and it is bringing back some wonderful memories of our trip last year to India.

    Interesting to hear about Meera & the Saubhag B&B -- I was so very disappointed that she was booked up when I went, even though I tried to reserve many months before we left.

    Re: the Bishnoi Villages and the opium tea ceremeony -- it is most definitely offered to tourists! When we were there last year, the host offered some to my husband in his hand, and, in turn, poured some tea in DH's hand, who offered it to me. But it was undoubtedly watered down a lot, because I felt nothing at all. And if there was anything substantive in that liquid, I'm sure I would've felt something!

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your on-the-go TR, and welcome you home to the end of this crazy winter! At least you missed a LOT of it!

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    Thanks all for following along. And thanks to so many of you for going before and providing so many good suggestions.

    Calinurse - think I have you to thank for Saubhag B&B in Delhi, and progol for Kedesawar (I can never spell that) B&B in Varanasi. uhohbusted and juliajane - I'm looking forward to your trip reports! Yestravel - Spring in DC - maybe today - it looks promising anyway. Looking forward to your trip report re Thailand/Myanmar . . .

    Katnip - well it seems every third person or so in India is a Singh, so unless your driver is the Delhi taxi driver friend of Saubhag B&B in Delhi - probably not the same guy. We never caught his other name so always just called him Mr. Singh. And he called Mr. G "Sir." and me "chopped liver" ha ha . ... just kidding Of course, he was a lovely man.
    I jokingly began to address Mr. G as "Sir. ." toward the end of the trip. It's tough on him now that we've returned to U.S.

    re: 2 months on the road. Mr. G usually says he's ready to get back by the last week if not a little before. I usually feel like I could keep going. . . I guess we're all comforted by our routines. Because the thing that wears both of us down after awhile is DECIDING every day - which things to do in which order, which place to eat and what etc., what to tip the driver . .. yada yada yada. But of course we are very fortunate to have such good "problems." (Hence our pleasure in having Meera boss us around in Delhi - please just tell us what to do now and we'll just do it).

    Spent all day yesterday culling 3000!!! pictures down to about 300. If I get motivated I might post them somewhere and post a link. It was fun to go through the pics and look back over the trip. We thought it was a wonderful trip overall - so much diversity - a nice mix of crazy cities and relaxing parks. We felt like we really got a good sense of India past and present - though we saw far from all of it.
    An amazing country really. Now we're so much more interested in following its future - politically and otherwise.

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